City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege, shown in 2003, said that plans are in place to begin the transition of implementing two separate offices effective in 2013. (Los Angeles Times)
By Eric Sondheimer | LA Times | http://lat.ms/al3nmR
November 16, 2010 -- After 75 years of participation in the California Interscholastic Federation and taking a lead role in running the Los Angeles City Section, the Los Angeles Unified School District has decided to cede a share of authority and responsibility in running its high school sports program.
Barbara Fiege, the City Section commissioner, said that plans are in place to begin the transition of implementing two separate offices effective in 2013. One would handle district sports business and the other would run the CIF City Section. The announcement was made Monday at a meeting of the Interscholastic Athletic Committee, which oversees the City Section.
LAUSD will continue to pay for coaching salaries and fielding teams of district high schools but will no longer be responsible for running the program.
The City Section was created in 1935 when it broke away from the Southern Section because LAUSD wanted more control over its students. With the City Section no longer being run primarily by the LAUSD, other public and private schools could join the City Section or leave for the Southern Section. In fact, the CIF has told the City Section that any new private school that opens within the City Section boundary will become part of the section.
Still to be answered is how the new office will be funded and who will run it. LAUSD schools do not pay section dues and are not assessed a sports participation fee, as in the Southern Section. LAUSD has absorbed those costs over the years. Charter schools have been assessed fees upon entry into the section. Lake Balboa Birmingham, a charter school, pays about $8,000 to the City Section annually. How to fund the operation as an independent athletics office is still to be decided.
Hal Harkness, who served as City Section commissioner from 1986 to 1993, expressed surprise at the decision.
"I'm dumbfounded because it can't be for money reasons because the amount of money is minuscule compared to the whole budget," he said.
But Fiege said budget and governance issues led to LAUSD's decision. LAUSD has been paying for housing, staff and operation expenses.
There are 75 high schools in the City Section, in addition to nearly 40 charter schools, and more are set to join.
Fiege envisions the City Section similar to the San Diego Section, which includes San Diego Unified School District schools and others outside the district. The LAUSD is likely to maintain a smaller staff to oversee the athletic program for the district.
The revamped City Section office will be responsible for CIF business, such as governance, administering the playoffs and championships and enforcing CIF bylaws. The LAUSD athletics office will continue to manage the operations of the district sports programs, monitoring compliance and travel arrangements as other districts do around the state.
Rick Prizant, athletic director at Birmingham, said, "This is a natural progression for city athletics."
But a number of IAC members were caught off guard.
"It's a lot to come to grips with and understand," Fiege said.